Cincinnati Zoo Saddened By Loss of Silverback Gorilla

Posted October 23, 2012

CINCINNATI (October 23, 2012) – It is with a heavy heart that the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden announces the passing of its 30-year-old silverback, Western lowland gorilla, “Kwashi.”  The 320-pound gorilla was born at the Memphis Zoo on May 16, 1982 and came to the Cincinnati Zoo in May of 2010 from the Knoxville Zoo, to reside with a bachelorette group of gorillas, Chewie, Samantha, and M’Linzi.  

On Sunday, October 21, primate keepers saw a change in Kwashi’s eating habits and noted that he was drinking less as the day progressed. Early Monday, keepers found Kwashi lethargic, unable to stand on his own and dehydrated.   Calls were immediately made to the vet staff at the Cincinnati Zoo and a team of experts were contacted for a thorough evaluation. Cincinnati Zoo Veterinarian, two staff vet technicians, a team of local human physicians made of an area anesthesiologist, as well as surgeons and a cardiac ultrasound technician from Christ Hospital made the emergency house call to the Zoo.  As the evaluation began, keepers and medical staff noticed that Kwashi’s temperature was low and his heart rate was nearly undetectable. Quick attempts to get Kwashi fluid were made but his health was quickly deteriorating and he passed away shortly after the procedure began.

“Kwashi, like all gorillas, was a unique individual with a quiet and timid personality,” said Thane Maynard, Executive Director at the Cincinnati Zoo. “He will be sorely missed not only by all of us that worked with him and loved him, but also by our passionate community of Zoo lovers and his gorilla family.”

A necropsy was performed on Tuesday to determine the cause of death and after several hours it was discovered that Kwashi died from a serious abdominal infection. Tissue samples were collected during the necropsy and sent to a pathologist.  This information will allow zoos to continue to learn about this species.

The Cincinnati Zoo is currently home to seven Western lowland gorillas, including Silverback Jomo and his family of Samantha, Asha and Anju.   

Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 individuals. Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining and agricultural expansion, wild gorilla numbers continue to shrink.  The bushmeat trade – the killing of wild animals to be used as human food – is also a major threat to the western lowland gorilla population throughout the Central African rainforests.  Over 1,000 gorillas are illegally poached for the bushmeat trade each year. The Cincinnati Zoo supports wild gorilla conservation efforts like the Mbeli Bai Study.  The Mbeli Bai Study is the longest running research being done with wild western lowland gorillas.  Through research, local education programs, publications and documentaries, the Mbeli Bai Study is raising international awareness for gorillas and their struggle for survival. More Information >